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Sex attack 'staged' to hide crucifix killing of 81-year-old, trial told

A 45-YEAR-OLD woman accused of the crucifix killing of her next-door neighbour in a drink-fuelled rage on Christmas Eve staged a sexual assault to cover up her crime, a court has heard.

Karen Walsh wanted police to believe a man had been in pensioner Maire Rankin's bedroom, had sexually assaulted her and had hit her on the head with a crucifix.

Walsh denies beating Mrs Rankin (81) to death in her home in Dublin Road, Newry, Co Down, in 2008 -- the naked body of the mother-of-eight was found by her family on Christmas Day.

The prosecution alleges Walsh turned up at her neighbour's house drunk after a row with her husband, Dublin-based accountant Richard Durkin, and the attack was sparked by the elderly woman lecturing her.

Cross-examining Walsh for a second day, prosecution barrister Liam McCollum put it to her that "you didn't want this old lady telling you how to live your life".

He suggested that Mrs Rankin told Walsh she should have been at home with her two-year-old son and husband, instead of lying on her bed drinking vodka straight from the bottle in the early hours of Christmas morning.

Mr McCollum claimed that Walsh, fuelled by drink, lost her temper, and pushed Mrs Rankin. Walsh denied this, repeatedly saying "no, no, I couldn't have been any nicer to Mrs Rankin".


Mr McCollum claimed Walsh then grabbed a crucifix and beat Mrs Rankin to death. He claimed she stripped the elderly woman, ransacked the room and staged the sexual assault to cover up her crime, and to make it appear there had been a man in the house, thus diverting attention away from her.

The mother-of-one has repeatedly told the court she was worried about Mrs Rankin's breathing, as she was "very wheezy" and she had searched downstairs for an inhaler.

However, Mr McCollum said such an inhaler had been found on a bedside locker in the same room as Mrs Rankin's body.

Walsh said she "didn't believe" it was there.

The prosecution further claimed that in a panic after the attack Walsh tried to call her husband seven times from Mrs Rankin's phone because he had locked her out of their own house. Walsh denied this, saying she did not make any phone calls from Mrs Rankin's house.

Mr McCollum also questioned Walsh as to why she repeatedly asked police officers on Christmas Day if Mrs Rankin had been beaten to death.

He suggested it would have been reasonable for Walsh to think Mrs Rankin had died as a result of an asthma attack, particularly as the defendant had told the court she was very worried about her breathing.

He claimed the only explanation for Walsh's query to police was that she had beaten her elderly neighbour to death.

Again, Walsh denied this, saying her husband saw a report on Teletext around lunch-time on Christmas Day saying the death was suspicious.

But Mr McCollum said the details were not released to the media until later.

Later the jury heard evidence from Dr Declan Gilsenan, the former Assistant State Pathologist for the Republic.

He said that, in his opinion, Mrs Rankin died as a result of a cardiac arrhythmia -- brought on by the stress of an assault.

The prosecution's case is that Walsh beat Mrs Rankin to death, pushed a crucifix into her face and sexually assaulted her and that she is linked to the scene, the crucifix and Mrs Rankin's body by DNA evidence.

But Walsh claimed she only hugged and kissed Mrs Rankin.

The trial continues.